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Section 124 Of The Trademarks Act 1999: Scope Of Invalidity Plea Beyond The Written Statement

The interpretation of Section 124 of the Trademarks Act 1999, regarding the necessity of raising a plea of invalidity of a registered trademark exclusively in the written statement, was scrutinized by the Hon'ble High Court of Madras in a recent case. The central question revolved around whether the plea of invalidity could be raised in pleadings other than the written statement.

In the case under consideration, the defendant's right to file a written statement lapsed due to the expiration of the statutory period of 120 days. However, the defendant filed counter-affidavits in response to the plaintiff's interlocutory applications seeking interim injunctions. In these counter-affidavits, the defendant explicitly challenged the validity of the plaintiff's trademark 'VARAM.' The issue before the court was whether the defendant could invoke Section 124 of the Trademarks Act 1999 to challenge the validity of the plaintiff's trademark outside the written statement.

Legal Analysis:
Section 124 of the Trademarks Act 1999 outlines the procedure for challenging the validity of a registered trademark. Traditionally, such challenges were raised in the written statement as part of the defendant's defense. However, the Madras High Court's interpretation underscores a broader interpretation of the provision.

The court observed that Section 124 does not expressly mandate that the plea of invalidity must be raised exclusively in the written statement. Instead, the provision allows for a flexible approach, enabling defendants to assert the invalidity of a registered trademark in various pleadings, including counter-affidavits filed in response to interim injunction applications.

This interpretation aligns with the underlying purpose of Section 124, which aims to provide an avenue for challenging the validity of registered trademarks to safeguard against unwarranted monopolies and promote fair competition. Restricting the plea of invalidity solely to the written statement would unduly limit defendants' ability to raise legitimate defenses and protect their interests.

Furthermore, allowing defendants to assert the plea of invalidity in counter-affidavits promotes procedural efficiency and avoids unnecessary delays in the litigation process. It enables parties to address substantive issues at the earliest stage possible, facilitating the expeditious resolution of disputes.

The Madras High Court's interpretation of Section 124 expands the scope of invalidity challenges beyond the confines of the written statement. This decision provides clarity and flexibility to defendants in raising defenses related to trademark validity, ensuring a fair and equitable adjudication process.

Trademark litigants should be cognizant of this interpretation and strategically utilize pleadings, such as counter-affidavits, to assert defenses based on trademark invalidity. By doing so, parties can effectively protect their rights and interests while contributing to the efficient administration of justice.

The Madras High Court's decision underscores the dynamic nature of trademark litigation and the need for a pragmatic approach to statutory interpretation. By recognizing the validity of invalidity challenges raised in pleadings other than the written statement, the court promotes procedural fairness and expeditious dispute resolution. This interpretation of Section 124 empowers defendants to assert legitimate defenses and ensures the integrity of trademark law in India.

Case Title: Varamm Healthcare Private Limited vs Mgm Healthcare Private Limited
Order Date: 19.02.2024
Case No. C.S.(Comm.Div.)No.2 of 2023
Name of Court: Madras High Court
Neutral Citation:NA
Name of Hon'ble Judge:Abdul Quddhose,H J.

Ideas, thoughts, views, information, discussions and interpretation expressed herein are being shared in the public Interest. Readers' discretion is advised as these are subject to my subjectivity and may contain human errors in perception, interpretation and presentation of the fact and issue involved herein.

Written By: Advocate Ajay Amitabh Suman, IP Adjutor - Patent and Trademark Attorney
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9990389539

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